Agile environments place emphasis on the individual and social interactions over processes and tools. And root cause analysis is necessary for helping maintain this agile environment like a well-oiled machine.
What is a Root Cause Analysis?
From the term itself, root cause analysis is a process or a method to figure out the root cause of a problem and to solve it. This process is mostly used on recurring problems which were presented with several short-term solutions before. It scratches and digs deep into the surface.
Basically, this analytical process is the modern iteration of the Socratic method from ages ago. Socrates believed and postulated that learning comes in the form of asking questions and digging more information than what we already know.
This process also assumes the presence of interrelation of systems. The interrelation then is the basis of the various approaches to this method. One of the most famous approaches is the Five Whys method by Sakichi Toyoda, Toyota Industries founder. Toyoda’s practical approach in problem-solving plants Toyota as a practical name in the automotive industry as well. Developed and established in the 1930s, this approach reached its peak in the 1970s and it never looked back.
In this much more modern approach, the root cause analysis comes with visual presentations and aids that will help the end-users with their problem-solving. Toyota Industry’s five whys approach is also presented in an easy and straightforward graphic. This approach is often presented using idea boxes and right-facing arrowheads.
A root cause analysis format begins with the obvious recurring problem. Using Toyoda’s approach, the reason behind the current problem shall be asked repeatedly. Why is this a problem? When an answer is presented, another “why” question is asked. It is repeatedly done five times until the root cause is uncovered.
Once everyone knows what the root cause is, formulation of the solution takes over. The solution aims to solve the core problem, therefore minimizing the possibility of encountering the same salient problem in the future.
RCA in Agile Environments
This method works well in environments that prioritize individuality and interactions because it requires multiple heads to put together the most viable solutions for long-standing problems.
Granted that it assumes the presence of a system, this approach, per se, is holistic. It looks into the entire process and then focuses on the details. Simply put, it is a top-down approach in information processing. It aims to look for the cause anywhere in the entire process, thus requiring everyone involved in the whole process to pitch in.
Root cause analysis provides multiple benefits for agile environments. Here are some examples.
Precise Problem Solving
As a method used for solving problems, the root cause analysis delivers precision and accuracy in a shorter time frame. As compared to other established methods, the root cause analysis does not have supporting theories.
Toyoda made this process out of necessity and practicality. It doesn’t require a long and winding process before it begins to tackle the possible reasons.
It simply starts with observation. Someone points out a glaring and repetitive mistake and then the group can take action.
Take for example trying to solve a bug in a particular code. The bug has been reported several times and it has always been presented with several band-aid solutions which, expectedly, does not last long. Once the severity of this problem is measured, the questioning begins until the root cause is discovered.
Once the root cause is pointed out, a team can carry out a plan to form a solution. The process is precise and straightforward.
Manageable and User-friendly
Another benefit that comes with root cause analysis is it is manageable to work with among different clusters. Most root cause analysis formats are easy to understand. It may be a one-way chart of a fishbone diagram. Even first-time users of this process are not intimidated by its tools.
The figures are easy to use during brainstorming sessions. It doesn’t have prerequisites aside from formulating an objective approach to the problem.
To have an objective grasp of the problem, the 5Ws and 1H must be asked. Determine the who, what, where, when, why, and how of the situation. In this manner, we can see the different sides of the problem and be well aware of how to solve it from all angles.
These are all simple enough questions that are answerable by anyone who is involved in any part of the production process. The answers then become foundations for the analytical approach.
Time Efficient Approach
Lastly, the root cause analysis is time-efficient. This is also the reason why it is an essential problem-solving tool in agile environments.
Agile environments do not want to waste time. Changes happen at any time to support development. Blunders and problems should be solved immediately to continue the growth.
By gathering the essential people, the root cause of the problem can be unearthed in less than an hour. Gather people who are inside the loop of the process and include people who aren’t part of it.
Third parties can look at a project from a different angle; different from what the others are used to. They are also the ones with the most questions regarding the process. Questions that you might have missed to consider as you are trying to solve the problem.
Indeed, time is of the essence and time means money. Say, your software application does not resolve issues promptly. It causes backlogs and delays which affects the customer experience. Delays upon delays lower customer satisfaction.
There are several methods to tackle and solve problems. But, when it comes to agile and dynamic environments, the root cause analysis approach holds an edge over others. The approach is simple and straightforward.
The goal is to simply discover the main cause of the problem and to formulate a suitable solution, setting band-aid solutions aside. More than that, it is time-efficient and values the strength of systems and collaboration.